COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Terry Brady
‘ELK PATROL,’ PUBLIC OUTREACH EFFORT BEGINNING
SECOND YEAR IN BENEZETTE AREA
HARRISBURG (September 2, 2003) — The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) again will join other state agencies and Benezette Township officials in the second annual cooperative “Elk Patrol” and public education effort to improve wildlife-viewing tourism and lessen traffic and related problems in some areas of the elk’s prime range.
Buoyed by acclaim in 2002 from township residents and visiting tourists alike, and fine-tuned to improve effectiveness and education efforts, patrols will began Friday in the Benezette Township, Elk County, area.
Special patrols and related efforts were started just before the peak elk-viewing season in late summer and early fall 2002. Participants included the township, Pennsylvania State Police, state Game Commission, Department of Transportation, and DCNR.
“Working together in a cooperative project that is truly unique, these four state agencies have accomplished their goal of minimizing traffic problems and helping visitors find safe, rewarding places to see elk on public lands,” said DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. “We accomplished what we set out to do, and now we aim to improve on those initial efforts.”
Patrolling from mid-August through October 2002, the special units made contact with more than 1,140 individuals, offering advice, directions, and, sometimes, warnings and citations to individuals drawn to the Benezette area by the thrill of seeing and hearing wild elk. A total of seven citations were issued, along with 296 written and verbal warnings.
“As these figures indicate, education was the goal of these public contacts, not prosecution,” said Secretary DiBerardinis. “We know the initial effort was a success because township residents, tourists, and the patrolling officers themselves are telling us so.”
Among those is Benezette Township Supervisors Chairman Bert Reis, who notes resident complaints last fall decreased while the influx of fall visitors continued to increase. A new local appreciation of tourism-related business also is evident, he said.
Officials of the three patrolling agencies say field reports from their officers have resulted in minor modifications this year to present a more concentrated and effective effort in late summer and early fall. “Elk patrol” revisions will include:
Joint patrol efforts involving two agencies when elk viewing numbers peak; more concentrated efforts during Friday-to-Sunday and holiday periods; a later start-up that is timed with the expected Labor Day influx of visitors; and flexibility when bad weather limits visitation.
PennDOT’s Clearfield District again will be posting two flashing warning and directional signs along Route 555 near Benezette to warn of elk and possible driving hazards, and try to supply a third – requested by the township officials for Winslow Hill Road. That approach to the most heavily visited elk-viewing area sometimes is clogged with vehicles.
The patrol force will continue to include state police, game commission officers, and forest rangers. Emphasis will be on educating motorists about other elk-viewing areas, but careless driving, and motor vehicle, trespassing, and state Game Law violations will be addressed.
State police and the other patrolling agencies again will distribute the pamphlet prepared jointly by the four state agencies, “Wildlife Watching in Pennsylvania’s Elk Country,” which was unveiled late last summer. Safe driving and elk-viewing tips, alternate viewing sites on state land away from the often-crowded Winslow Hill area of Benezette,; and a detailed, color-coded map all are offered in this publication.
Game Commission Executive Director Vernon R. Ross applauded the second-year effort to bring welcomed relief to the Winslow Hill area, where hunting is not allowed, and elk often are common.
“Just as hunting is an essential management tool to assure the long-term health of the elk herd and its habitat,” said Ross, “education is needed to shape and direct tourists’ newfound interest in elk. Our goal is to have both continued big-game opportunities for hunters, and additional outdoor viewing adventures for visitors throughout the area.”
Besides Winslow Hill, the “Wildlife Watching” pamphlet suggests Elk County visitors travel to these areas to view elk and other wildlife:
Sinnemahoning State Park along Route 872; Hicks Run Viewing Area, along Route 555, about 12 miles east of Benezette; Elk Trail, 19-mile loop off of Route 555, 10 miles east of Benezette; Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail, 26-mile loop, off of east Hicks Run Road, 12 miles east of Benezette; and Beaver Run Dam, off the Quehanna Highway, southeast of intersection with Route 555.
For more information on elk watching and the Elk Watching and Nature Tourism Plan for Northcentral Pennsylvania, visit DCNR’s web site at www.dcnr.state.pa.us; or www.Fermatainc.com/pennelk/index.html.
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